The 5 Most Super Plays of Cam Newton's Career
When the Carolina Panthers decided they liked Newton enough to make him the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, there was only one thing that mattered to the team's management, coaching staff, players and fans: They needed the Panthers to win.
Newton started to deliver on that promise last year when he led the Panthers to first place in the NFC South. While the Panthers lost in the playoffs to the San Francisco 49ers, there is little doubt that Newton has become one of the most dangerous and explosive quarterbacks in the league.
If he can continue to develop his consistency, the team could reach even greater heights.
But as far as excitement goes, Newton is in rare company. Here are five of the most memorable plays during the first three years of his NFL career.
Newton Puts It on the Money to Steve Smith in Playoffs
While the Carolina Panthers had a sensational regular season in 2013 and entered the postseason as the No. 2 seed in the NFC behind the Seattle Seahawks, head coach Ron Rivera knew his team had its work cut out for it against the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional playoffs.
Jim Harbaugh's Niners were just too athletic, nasty and experienced, and that meant the Panthers would have a difficult time even though they had home-field advantage. Still, Carolina had Cam Newton under center and that gave them a fighting chance.
Early in the second quarter, the Panthers found themselves trailing 6-0. After a Ted Ginn punt return gave Carolina the ball inside San Francisco territory, Newton hit wide receiver Steve Smith with a 31-yard TD pass (7:08 mark of video above).
The pass was precise and thrown with perfect timing, and it represented the only touchdown the Panthers would score all day. It had to be a perfect pass, and Newton delivered.
Newton Burns Saints During His Rookie Season
Newton came into his own in the 2013 season, but he showed flashes as a rookie in 2011.
One of those moments came in Week Five against the Saints. The Panthers were trailing 10-0 at the time against Drew Brees & Co., and it appeared that a blowout loss could be on the horizon.
However, Newton was not about to have any of it. He took a snap in shotgun formation with 3:04 remaining in the first quarter and his protection quickly broke down. He stepped up in the pocket and leaped as he spotted Steve Smith breaking open. He fired a strike to the receiver (3:49 of video above), who made an excellent catch.
Normally, the defense would have been able to wrap Smith up after taking in a 25-yard pass. However, Newton put the ball in a position where Smith was able to clear himself from the defender and then use his speed and quickness to run away and score the Panthers' first touchdown.
Newton showed his ability to diagnose what the defense was doing and put velocity on his throw. The NFL quickly took notice.
Athletic Ability Allows Newton to Sink Patriots
There were few games that were more significant for the 2013 Panthers than their Week 11 Monday night encounter with the New England Patriots.
The Panthers brought a five-game winning streak into that meeting and had just beaten the San Francisco 49ers on the road, so their confidence was high. Still, Newton had to have some concern when he saw Tom Brady and Bill Belichick on the opposite sidelines.
One of the key moments in the game came midway through the third quarter with the score tied 10-10. On a 3rd-and-7 play from the Carolina 37, Newton was under immediate pressure as he attempted to find a receiver (video above).
The Patriots defense was all over him and he had no choice but to take off from the pocket. He avoided four tackles with his shocking athletic ability and gained 14 yards, giving the Panthers a first down in New England territory.
It was a remarkable display that paid off in a Carolina touchdown when Newton hit tight end Greg Olsen shortly thereafter.
Touch Pass vs. Giants Keys Carolina Rout
While Newton clearly had game-breaking talent when the Panthers drafted him in 2011, it takes a lot more than brilliant physical gifts to play quarterback effectively in the NFL.
Newton quickly realized that he had to develop his accuracy if he wanted to have a prosperous NFL career. He showed he could be a fine touch passer in the Panthers' Week 3 38-0 victory over the New York Giants.
In that game, the Panthers held a 10-0 second-quarter lead in the final seconds before halftime. With Carolina at the New York 16-yard line, Newton dropped a pass into the hands of wide receiver Brandon LaFell, who had beaten defensive back Terrell Thomas with a quick move (5:58 mark of video above).
Newton demonstrated patience, near-perfect timing and the ability to give his receiver a catchable pass on that play. It ripped the heart out of the Giants, who simply could not compete in the second half of this game.
Newton Exploits Vikings Defense with His Arm Strength
The Panthers had a 14-3 lead over the Minnesota Vikings as they started the third quarter in their Week 5 game of the 2013 season at the Metrodome. Minnesota did not like getting embarrassed at home, and the Vikings knew they had to do something to turn the game around quickly.
Newton refused to let that happen. He quickly fired a kill shot when he threw a 79-yard TD pass to LaFell (8:21 mark of video above).
On the play, Newton quickly looked to his left to draw the defense over, and then he turned to his right and fired a pass to the wide-open LaFell. The receiver took off and ran into the endzone untouched.
The Panthers went on to record a 35-10 victory.